Shadows of the Past – Part Two
Departure from the camp was swift and silent. They left without a word to anyone in the darkness before dawn and didn´t look back. Lisya scribbled down a quick note for One–eye to pass along to the others so people wouldn´t be shocked at their disappearance, despite Brand´s frowning disapproval. He wanted to be gone and he thought it would have been better that nobody knew why they´d left. After some mediation between them through Buba, Brand finally settled on allowing a simple goodbye note but nothing more.
By the time the sun first fully topped the horizon behind them, they´d passed the dead zone of Adara´s making and entered into a thickly overgrown forest. For the most part everyone remained silent. Their journey only accompanied by the oddly sounding insects of the forest (Brand was sure that the dominating sound was crickets despite it being duller and less harsh than what he was used to) and the other mysterious creatures that dwelled deep within this foreign woods.
Shortly after the sun reached its high point in the sky, the three travelling companions settled down in a small clearing for a break and a bite to eat. Large, gnarled trees of unknown origin with an almost scaly black bark surrounded them. Leaves more brightly green than Brand had ever seen shimmered with life under the sun´s attention. The cool, clean air filled Brand with a feeling of warmth that he´d never find in his own world. There was peace in this world. In this part of it, at least. For now safety wasn´t really on anyone´s mind. The issue lingered, waiting for when they stepped away from this part of the land and into that controlled by Zadara. For now, though, all was well.
As they relaxed, lounging on the lush carpet of the forest, they ate. Lisya had filled an entire pack with water and another with food... if you could call it that. It was the supposedly ´healthy´ oatmeal mush that was served in the camp, only it was pressed into bars and dried. It tasted pretty much the same: terrible.
"Four Big Mac´s, three super–sized french fries, five steaming apple pies, two sundaes... and a diet Pepsi," Brand said.
Buba looked up from his oatmeal–mush–bar, eyes shining (were those tears?). "Me, too. Me, too. Except three chocolate shakes instead of the Pepsi," he said with a little hint of sadness lining his voice.
"What?" Lisya asked as she looked between Brand and Buba.
"They´re sharing a moment that doesn´t concern the likes of us ´outsiders´. It´s not like I could eat anything, anyway. You know, there was a time I used to eat from the fruit of the gods and nothing so pathetically created in order to feed the masses could possible ever compare to that."
"Shut up, Sword," Brand grunted. "If I wanted any shit from you, I´d squeeze your... uh, blade."
Lisya cocked a brow, glancing at Buba. "What is this chocolate shake? You showed me chocolate; how does one shake it?"
Buba, practically drooling now, stuffed the rest of his oatmeal–mush bar into a pocket. "In our world, chocolate is used in so many different ways! You can´t begin to imagine, Lisya. Chocolate shakes, chocolate pies, chocolate ice–cream, chocolate covered turtles, chocolate covered grasshoppers, chocolate mousse, chocolate cakes, chocolate pudding..."
"Please!" Brand interrupted. "You´re going to kill me, Buba."
Grinning sheepishly, Buba stopped his reciting of the Bleu Top 50. For a while they just sat there in silence, absorbing the life around them. Eventually they drifted off, each falling into a lazy sleep, lazy but restful and complete. When they awoke, they were refreshed by they didn´t leave. Not yet.
"So, what´s the plan, Brand?" Lisya asked.
"No plan. We walk."
"What do you mean, no plan? We shouldn´t be walking until we know where we are headed. We could be going the wrong way."
"Fate, destiny, whatever the hell it is, wants to tell me what to do so I´ll just walk and they can sort it out and make me go wherever it is they want me to go."
"Doesn´t work like that, Brand," Sword said. "Not since you became the Wielder. Destiny has no control over you. If you wanted to lay down and not move for the next 50 years, everything would be put on hold."
"Thanks for sharing."
"I aim to please, dude."
"Do me a favor while you´re at it. Stop taking lingo from my mind."
"Sorry, brother. I can´t help it. I´m part of you; you´re part of me. All that you know has become some of what I know. It´s integrated into my whole self."
"Shame it doesn´t work the other way, too."
"You´d go mad if you knew all that I knew."
Brand ran his hands over his face, suppressing a sigh. "That´s assuming I´ve not gone mad already."
"Do you two need a moment," Buba asked with a grin. "Sounds like you need to get your little lovers spat out of the way." As soon as he said it, Buba turned red. Shame erupted in his chest and sunk to his stomach. "I´m sorry," he whispered. "I didn´t mean..."
"She´s dead, Buba. Just get over it like I have. She ain´t coming back; you might as well let her go, too. Eggshells not required."
Buba nodded, but he still felt bad for saying it. Lisya rested her hand over his and squeezed it gently. He sighed, thankful for the support all the while hating his stupid mouth just a little bit more.
"So, Lisya," Brand said, pointedly eyeing the physical contact, "You´re big on the old getting of a plan. Where should we go?"
"How should I know?"
"You seem to think there´s somewhere to go... don´t be shy. Like that´s possible. Where do you think we should be headed?"
The sword, unable to refrain a moment more, launched into a singsong voice: "Someone´s jealous, someone here is jealous and I think his name is Brand."
"Sword, so help me... I will cut off my arm and bury you right here, then leave you if you don´t shut the fuck up."
"Such vulgarity. Sheesh Brand, the least you could do is be a little more creative. I mean, come on. Ooh, Brand said fuck. I guess I better be scared. All that tells me is that you lack the education to properly word what you want to say."
"What´s wrong," Buba asked. "Why you blowing up at Lisya?"
"Me? She´s the one that´s been giving me attitude."
"Classic transferal," Sword interjected.
Brand glared at his arm for a moment, then shot his deadly gaze at Lisya. "You know more about this than I do. You were reading that damn book. Is there any way to muzzle this thing?"
Lisya just shrugged. "Think of it as a child. Didn´t your mother ever teach you that when you ignore a child´s teasing, they´ll realize it´s not working and eventually drop it?"
Buba frowned sharply and lowered his gaze. He knew what was coming. He was thankful for one thing at that moment and one thing only. He was thankful Lisya was a woman and not a man.
"No, she didn´t," Brand said, more than a little bitterness in his voice. "Perhaps I should hate her because she didn´t. Why don´t I go and dig up her grave, where she´s been buried since I was, oh, one, and piss all over her for not teaching me that?"
Lisya´s eyes widened. "Oh, Brand, I didn–"
"Save it," Brand grunted as he stood and headed off through the nearest stand of trees still lovingly absorbing the glorious day´s sunlight.
Lisya sighed. "I didn´t know."
"That´s Brand, don´t worry about it. He´s just not dealing with Megan´s death as much as he´s pretending to and, you know, he´s a terrible actor."
"No. I said no and I mean no." Chrava pinched the bridge of her nose tightly, trying her hardest not to get mad. Well, probably not her hardest but she was trying a little. "Just do as I say and don´t ask questions! Did I, like, lose my position as Zadara´s number one advisor when I wasn´t looking? Since when does my word get questioned?"
The despicable little man before her couldn´t help but giggle. "Since wittle Chrava got an eye–full. Aww." He thought he was being funny and it was the last thing he fought. Seconds later his mind quite literally exploded. Not his brain... his mind. The best way to describe it would have to be that every single thought that ever went through his mind his entire life was all recalled at once. His ´wittle´ mind wasn´t able to handle overload and just... exploded. Bye–bye smart–ass fatman.
As he crumbled to the ground in a heap of gibberish, Chrava stepped over him and wandered down the hall, fuming. Something had to change. So, Zadara wasn´t her one, true love. So what? So, she was embarrassed by this revelation. So what? So, someone (that ass–kissing Head of the Guard, she knew) decided to tell the world about what happened. So what? So, everyone thought of her as nothing but a naïve little child now. So what? So what nothing. She was the most powerful psionic to ever walk this land and she was not about to let people forget it.
The public needed a reminder why she held the position she held. That was easy enough to arrange. The question was, just what kind of reminder should she give them? She had a few ideas, all right. More than a few, if she really wanted to consider the possibilities. She´d gone from most feared to most ridiculed in two seconds. Well, now she was going to go from most ridiculed to most feared in one second.
Brand wandered through the thickening forest, moving farther away from Buba and Lisya. He needed to clear his head and this was the best way to do it, distance. He also needed to clear his bladder.
He wandered over to the nearest tree and whipped out Brand Jr. then began to water the tree with a healthy dose of liquid. As he sighed with relief, a voice filtered down from above.
"Bit o´ advice, friend?"
Brand´s eyes shot upward immediately, round as saucers. Above him, lounging on the branch of the very tree he chose to water, was a man. He sat there, one leg propped up on the branch; the other leg hung over the side. There was nothing overly noticeable about him. Shoulder–length brown hair, a T–shirt and jeans, snake–skin cowboy boots, a knee–length black jacket, eyes hidden behind perfectly round, pitch–black glasses, and a goatee to boot. The glasses through Brand for a moment, he almost thought the man was blind. But he was sure the man was looking directly at him.
Something felt very wrong here as Brand stared at this stranger in the tree. He couldn´t put his finger on it, feeling like he was trying to solve one of those what–is–wrong–with–this–picture puzzles. He´d always hated those things and now here he was trying to solve one for real. It was no use though; nothing seemed out of place to him.
"Who´re you?" Brand demanded. Then he realized he still had junior out and hastily stuffed himself back into his pants.
"Duck? What kind of name..." When the light bulb finally came on, it was almost too late. As Brand dropped to the ground, a piercing pain ripped through his right shoulder near the edge of the metallic skin brought on from the Sword of Destiny. Splitters of bark flew at his face and not even a second later the echoing sound of a gunshot filled the air in the distance. As the pain ravaged his shoulder, he realized it would have been his heart.
"You think you know what this world is," the stranger said, "but you don´t. You have no idea, friend. You can´t begin to fathom the reality that surrounds you."
The words were distant in Brand´s ears. Comprehension was there, albeit a struggling comprehension. A few seconds later, Brand passed out.To be continued...